Psychics And Such At the White House: Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is the only President in the past 100+ years who never declared his affiliation with any particular religion. In Lincoln’s early campaigns for Congress opponents labeled him a "scoffer" of religion because Lincoln refused to join any particular church and had no recognizable religious affiliation. However, Lincoln did have a deep, abiding sense of spirituality and was often seen studying the Bible. One might say that by not being part of any organized religion provided Lincoln the freedom to explore all aspects of spirituality. And this man was all about freedom.

President Lincoln In modern times, critics of psychics and those who find an interest in such spiritual concepts, seem to ignore President Lincoln’s interest in such things. Probably because of Lincoln’s immense stature in American history. Instead, skeptics tend to target Mary Todd Lincoln, The First Lady, and label her ‘crazy’ for her interest in spirit contact. Skeptic and critics alike want to make it all Mary Todd Lincoln’s fault that seances were held in the White House at all. Even though it is documented that President Lincoln attended at least one of these seances, had no objections that they continue, and likely had several private psychic readings himself. That Mary Todd Lincoln met with spiritualists and attended seances was even used as proof of her apparent mental instability at her court insanity hearing in 1875.

It should be obvious that a person cannot possibly be elected President if the general public believes that person will be inviting psychics to the White House for consultations. The one President who appears to be the exception is Lincoln. Lincoln seems to have been on a spiritual quest of his own and exploring psychic phenomenon and spirit contact began part of that journey. Though numerous historians have ignored or only lightly touched on this topic, in the last decade a good deal of evidence has begun to reemerge. In no small part due to so many documents and out-of-print books becoming available via the Internet.

Lincoln Seance

Depiction Of Lincoln At Seance With Psychic Nettie Colburn Maynard, from 1891 publication

Possibly the best documented case of Abraham Lincoln and his wife attending a seance was recorded in a book by Nettie Colburn Maynard (also known as Nettie Colburn) called ‘Was Abraham Lincoln A Spiritualist?’ written in 1891. You can download a free copy of this book ebook here) The book would have been dismissed as a hoax except for the presence of other notable historical individuals. An updated version of this book called Seances in Washington was recently released with some fascinating commentary by Irene McGarvie. If Nettie Colburn Maynard’s book was the only report of President Lincoln attending a seance (or being in the company of psychics in and out of the White House) then it is understandable her account could be dismissed. But Lincoln, both before his Presidency and during his Presidency, is reported to have had a number friends, acquaintances who were psychics and/or involved in the Spiritualist Movement at the time.

For example, it is a matter of record that another psychic, J.B. Conklin, was a guest at the White House on numerous occasions. Conklin was a well known New York spirit medium at the time and who was also associated with the Spiritualist movement. Conklin had made his name delivering messages from those who had passed on. Some have claimed Conklin provided personal readings for Abraham Lincoln himself. Some of J.B. Conklin’s automatic writings sent from Conklin to President Lincoln are even now part of The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress (a href=”″ target=”_top”>click here to see records of those automatic writings). It would seem clear that it was not just Mary Todd Lincoln who was consulting with psychics and receiving personal readings both in and out of the White House.

There was also the psychic and mystic Paschal Beverly Randolph. Randolph was an African-American who had become noted for his psychic gifts as well as his understanding and advancement of mysticism. He had traveled the world from Paris to Persian studying spirituality, magic and religion. Lincoln met Randolph at a party fund raiser through General Ethan Hitchcock. Lincoln and Randolph became friends. After Lincoln’s assassination, Randolph was even invited to travel on Lincoln’s funeral procession train to Springfield, Illinois. Unfortunately, several passengers on that train objected to Randolph’s African-American heritage and he was ask to leave the train, something that deeply hurt him.

Mary Todd Lincoln

Widowed Mary Todd Linclon, 1865

Spiritualists, as well as other religions and spiritual organizations, have tried to claim Lincoln as one of their own. This is a bit of a disservice to Lincoln. Lincoln steadfastly pursued his own spiritual vision and never claimed any religious affiliation, something that can only be seen as very intentional. Lincoln’s seemingly deep involvement with various spiritually inclined individuals and spiritual practices has a great deal more to due with both Lincoln’s open-mindedness. But it also had a lot to do with politics. Spiritualists had been important supporters for the abolition of slavery from the very beginning of their own movement. Spiritualists were important supporters of Lincoln’s election to the Presidency, twice. Though being too closely associated with Spiritualists was considered politically unwise, yet Lincoln never did shun nor speak an ill of the Spiritualist movement, nor any other religion or spirituality.

Lincoln’s willingness to freely examine alternative spiritual ideas may have had a lot to do with the supernatural or paranormal experiences he had throughout his life. Lincoln often claimed he had precognitive dreams. It was not uncommon for Lincoln to ask his wife Mary for help interpreting his dreams and if those dreams might be telling him something of the future to come or about important individuals of the times. It is well known that Lincoln had a detailed, precognitive dream of his own assassination, something he shared with his wife and inner circle of friends not long before his assignation.

Hopefully, future generations will see that Lincoln’s involvement with psychics, mystics and Spiritualists as an expression of his individual spiritual quest. And that his choice to be spiritual while not be a member of any religion will be held as a wonderful example of American freedom. Perhaps the next generation will appreciate that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln shared an interest in the possibility of an afterlife and that spirit contact is possible. Then, the history books can stop insinuating that it was that ‘crazy’ or ‘depressed’ Mary Todd Lincoln who brought those psychics and Spiritualists to the White House and somehow Abraham Lincoln was dragged into those associations.

Based on the historical records we should see Mary Todd Lincoln as a woman who bore huge burdens in her life. She lost her father (in 1849); two sons (in 1850 and 1862); all of her half-brothers and a half-sister were killed during the Civil War along with many close friends; she lived under constant threat that her husband could be assassinated (which finally occurred 1865); plus she was hated by Southerners from abandoning her Southern roots and many Northerners never accepted her because she was born a Southerner. Taken all together it should not be surprising this woman struggled emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It might be more appropriate to admire the woman who suffered much to love and support a husband and family under the most trying of circumstances.

Psychic Misty

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President Lincoln would not be the last to invite psychics and such to the White House for private consultations. More surprising is how the general public still has little acceptance of alternative spiritualities. How different would America be today had Lincoln had succumbed to public pressures to be spiritually ‘correct’ and never pursued his own, independent, personal spiritual instincts and acted on his spiritual convictions?

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